I was sitting on the floor of Charleston’s room, helping him with his math work, when out of the blue my precious boy quipped, “When I’m an adult, I hope that my wife will be the one who works all day like Daddy so I can stay home and take naps all day like you.”
My instinctive response to this potentially malicious and definitely ill-informed commentary on our family life was hardly gracious. I quickly filled Charleston in on all that I do in a given day. I needed him to know that Daddy is not the only one who works for our family, and that being the stay-at-home parent is hardly a euphemism for one who “spends all day in bed.”
Later, when we returned to this conversation, I regretted my harsh response when Charleston told me that the real reason he wants to be a stay-at-home dad is so that he gets to spends more time with his kids, just like me. I melted a bit when he said that and realized the many “mothering lies” exposed by his words and my response to them.
In working through the various lies I believe about myself, my life, and God, I’m realizing that MANY of them revolve around my role as a mom. I guess this shouldn’t be surprising: apart from my identity as a Child of God, mom is the identity I hold most closely and cherish most deeply. (We’ll save the discussion of how seeking my identity through motherhood is itself problematic for another time.) Being a mom is not just my chosen career, it is a massive part of who I am and informs almost all other areas of my life. It’s no wonder that the enemy would infiltrate my mothering with destructive mistruths, many of which conflict with one another. Here are just a few of the lies I’ve been able to parse out, followed by the truths to counter them.
LIE: I need to prove myself as a stay-at-home mom.
This was the first lie exposed by my reaction to Charleston’s words. I felt the need to explain myself to him, to make him understand that I am doing my part to support our family and that not earning a paycheck does not make me the throw-away parent. Those things might be true, and it is important for everyone in our family—children AND adults—to recognize the reasons our family has chosen this countercultural model. But reciting a list of the tasks I check off each day is missing the point. The reality is that no list could encompass all of the work that being a stay-at-home parent entails; but it also couldn’t encompass all of the rewards.
The truth is that I AM a stay-at-home parent, and adding to the list of what I do in a given day doesn’t enhance my role any more than failing to do one of those things could detract from it. This is the role that I have. Full stop. Of course I want to thrive in motherhood in ways that are beneficial to my family, but I don’t want to be so busy proving (to my kids, myself, to the rest of society) that I’m a competent mom that I forget to actually be one. This role will shift with the seasons, looking harder or easier at various stages of my kids’ development, but as long as both Luke and I are in agreement about our decision for me to stay home with our kids, it is not a decision we need to prove to anybody.
LIE: Being a mother is a burden.
I hate that my gut reaction to Charleston’s words was to enumerate the various ways that being a mom is hard. No, it isn’t easy. Yes, it is exhausting. No, it isn’t always blissful, and yes, it is often thankless. But it is also a gift, one that too many women don’t get to experience. Being a stay-at-home mom is an especially rare and wonderful privilege and not one I should take lightly. The hardest things in life tend to be the most worthwhile, and nowhere has this been more true for me than in parenthood. The truth, as trite as it sounds, is that the blessings do FAR outweigh the burdens.
LIE: I am a good mom.
This isn’t necessarily a lie, but more of truth that is unhelpful for me to cling to. It might be true that I do a lot of good things as a mom, but I also mess up. A LOT. When I am too invested in my identity as a good mom, I am setting myself up for a shame spiral with every parenting mistake, because those mistakes cause me to question my role and my value. A more helpful truth is that with God’s help, I am capable of being the mom my kids need me to be. (And there is grace for when I fall short of that mark.)
LIE: I am a bad mom.
In countering the incomplete truth that “I am a good mom,” I can quickly overcorrect and give in to the lie that I am a bad mom. Of course I do and say many things that could put me into the “bad mom” category, but even if I was the worst mom in the history of moms, believing this about myself would not be helpful. We often live up to the reputations we claim for ourselves and if I am constantly telling myself that I’m a terrible mother, I’m simply setting myself up to fail my kids. The truth is that no mom is all good or all bad. I will pursue what I view as “good motherhood” while recognizing I won’t always hit that mark—and that is okay.
LIE: There is one “right way” to mother.
The mommy wars begin before a woman gets pregnant and last long after her little chicks have vacated the nest. When I buy into the lies that there is a right way to parent, I dismiss the needs of the family in front of me. Stay-at-home motherhood isn’t for everyone, nor is homeschooling, extended breastfeeding, or putting limits on screen time and extracurricular activities. Our family’s decisions in these areas don’t make us superior to other families. The fact that I’m not super crafty or adventurous, that I don’t serve my kids all organic food, and that I am not great at playing with them also does not make me inferior to other parents who do those things. The truth here is that, while there might be some styles of parenthood that are better than others, my parenting priorities will not always match those I see in other families; that does not mean that any of us are “doing it wrong.”
LIE: I’m messing up my kids.
Actually, I’m not convinced this one IS a lie. To some degree I think every parent messes up their kids. But really, as members of the human race we are all a little (or a lot) messed up. As parents we will contribute to our kids’ future hangups, hardships, and insecurities—there’s really no getting around that. But rather than focusing on where I’m going wrong, I choose instead to simply do the best with what I know now and accept that I am almost definitely funding the retirement of my kids’ future therapists.
LIE: My value rests in who I am and what I do as my kids’ mom.
This is the lie underlying every other lie on this list: that who I am as a mom matters because it is THE determining factor in who I am as a person. This is the lie that the enemy is most invested in me believing, because it makes me the determiner of my own worth. The truth is that regardless of who I am and how I do as a parent, I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Through the blood of Christ, I have been redeemed from sin (Ephesians 1:7) and am adopted into God’s family (Romans 8:15). Jesus’ sacrifice sets me free from sin and lies (Romans 6:18) and through the Holy Spirit I am equipped to live a life worthy of my calling as a mom (Ephesians 4:18), but how I do in this role is entirely separate from my value as God’s child (Roman’s 11:6).
If you are a parent (especially if you are a stay-at-home mom) I have no doubt you, too, are believing a few lies about your role. Your lies might be similar to the ones I am fighting against, or they may be entirely different. My prayer is that you will join me in combatting these lies and replacing them with truth that can be found in Scripture, in prayer, and in community. As fellow moms, let us encourage one another with God’s truth—not just with meaningless words we want to hear, or with unkind/unhelpful truths that fuel shame, but with TRUTH that is edifying and leads to the flourishing of all moms and our kids. Let us help one another stand firm in who we are as redeemed children of God who will stumble in our parenting but who are blessed by this role and equipped to be the parents He desires us to be.